Although this game was just a scrimmage, both teams ran with their top rotations the whole way (including starting goalies), so it gives us something of a good picture about where the programs stand relative to each other.
Fortunately for Michigan (after a Fall Ball in which they went winless and Marquette impressed), they’re one step ahead of the expansion squad.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Marquette 2012 (Scrimmage)|
|Faceoff Wins||13||Faceoff Wins||11|
|Offensive Efficiency||.182||Offensive Efficiency||.412|
During the course of this game, I had a feeling it was a relatively slow one, and I was right, sort of. A 67-possession game was in about the 64th percentile of game speed in the 2012 season, but Michigan was also the country’s 12-fastest team (on account of being bad, for the most part). The new rules should speed up the pace of play, so overall things were pretty subdued in terms of pace.
Michigan went with heavy doses of 10-man ride, and though Marquette didn’t clear the ball well, I cam away with the impression that most of their turnovers in that phase of the game weren’t caused by Michigan’s ride (some were). Michigan’s clear was significantly improved from last year: passing from poles was night-and-day better. There was still a bit of poor reacting to pressure, and Gerald Logan has a bit of improving to do in the clearing game, but that will come with experience.
On faceoffs, Jack Eisenreich looked very good. He won just over half his draws (10/18), but won the clamp in most instances, and just couldn’t secure the ground ball or get it to his wings. Kevin Wylie really struggled on faceoffs. Brad Lott did not see the field.
Starting with the offense, since that efficiency would have been the Wolverines’ best performance of the year by a country mile. That’s partially due to the ability to hold onto the ball better and not waste possessions, and partially due to some upgrades along the scoring lines.
Willie Steenland had three goals, two of them on rocket shots from pretty deep. He also only turned the ball over twice – reducing his biggest weakness from 2012. The coaching staff seems to have found ways to use him without putting too much of the burden of carrying the ball on him (part of that is adding other players who can carry it pretty well).
David Joseph had a goal and two assists, and looked quicker than he did last year. Will Meter didn’t score on any of his four shots, but looks huge, and had a couple nice opportunities just spoiled. Thomas Paras was his usual, consistent self that we’ve come to expect.
On to the new offensive players. Kyle Jackson burst onto the scene, scoring the Wolverines’ first two goals, but didn’t accomplish much after that. He made some nice dodges, but didn’t finish well after the first couple shots. Tome Sardelli (Sacred Heart transfer) has some nice skills, but he also committed a team-high three turnovers. Villanova transfer Mike Francia is tiny, but very skilled.
Michigan had only 5 assists on 14 goals, so there’s definitely room for improvement. Especially given Marquette’s style of play, some looks should have been open from time to time.
Defensively, the star of the game was Gerald Logan. He allowed goals and made 16 saves, for a save percentage of .727. That’s an impressive number, but his performance was even better seeing it live. Some of the shots he stopped were at point-blank range, or others that were tough to save, and he stood on his head in the net. As I mentioned above, he made a couple iffy plays in the clearing game (could have been first-game nerves and nothing more, for all I know), but as a ball-stopper, he’ll steal a game or two for this team.
Of course, part of the reason he has to make some nice saves was a bit of weakness in his defense. Rob Healy looks to be in better shape than ever, and was very solid, and Austin Swaney was what we’ve come to expect. However, the short-stick d-middies got dodged on pretty easily a couple times, and the team concept on defense is still working to improve its slides, etc. They should get there, but having some struggles against a team like Marquette still bodes ill for the likes of Loyola.
Marquette was playing an aggressive man-to-man defense, marking both on- and off-ball pretty tightly once things got within about 10 yards of GLE (across the width of the field, too), so for Michigan to turn it over 19 times wasn’t so bad, especially since the payoff was some easy looks on goal.
A quick non-team note: The confines of Oosterbaan Fieldhouse have always been tight, and playing on a regulation-width lacrosse field (instead of a few yards narrower on a football field) makes for both a very tight fit for fans and the field and very little sideline seating. It’s tough to see from the endzones, and although it’s not feasible short-term, raising those bleachers when Michigan plays indoors would make for a better viewing experience.
What it Means
Michigan is a lot better than they were last year. Although the lack of improvement overall on faceoffs was a little disappointing, not having Brad Lott available probably played into that, too. He and Eisenreich are pretty clearly a 1-2 at that position.
Young talent stepping in is the expectation for a young program like Michigan’s, and Kyle Jackson and Gerald Logan definitely lived up to expectations. As the season progresses, I’m interested to see who else (including Lott) can make a difference.
My expectations for Michigan this season are incremented upward slightly, going from a likely high mark of about four wins on the year, to a chance at five (or even six, if they can steal one somewhere). If they continue to play like this – and improve over the course of the year – the program will take a big step forward this fall.
It’s fo’ real next Saturday in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse. Penn State opens the regular season Saturday at 1 p.m. The Nittany Lions should be significantly better than Marquette (see the pre-season preview), and quite a bit better than Michigan.
It’s put up or shut up time for Michigan, however, and they’ve exceeded expectations from time to time. Keeping this one close is the goal, since stealing a win seems extremely unlikely at this point.